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The Oh in Ohio

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Jack and Priscilla are high school sweethearts who got married and now, several years later, are bored with each other. Jack (Paul Rudd) is a high school biology teacher. Priscilla (Parker Posey) works for the city of Cleveland’s public relations department. They eat dinner in silence. They relate to each other civilly but without passion. The reason: Priscilla can’t have an orgasm.

You may have decided based on that prologue alone whether you want to see this movie, a randy sex comedy called “The Oh in Ohio,” but I’ll elaborate anyway. Jack loves his wife completely but feels defeated at being unable to give her ultimate satisfaction, not even once, after all these years of trying. Priscilla, who has NEVER had an orgasm, has some rather puritanical views on sex anyway. When her therapist asks her whether she “enjoys” sex, she replies, “I’ve never thought of it in those terms.”

The solution to Priscilla’s problem proves to be mechanical — that is, she shyly and with much embarrassment buys a self-pleasuring device and with it opens a door to a whole new world she never knew existed.

They used to call sex toys “marital aids,” but this one doesn’t aid the marriage at all. Jack’s self-esteem is deflated even further when he realizes he has been replaced by a machine, and he is soon sleeping in one of two places: on a couch in the garage, or with one of his students, Kristen (Mischa Barton), a conniving vixen with whom he is able to regain his confidence as a competent and satisfying lover.

The fundamental problem with the film, directed by Billy Kent, arrives in the third act, when Priscilla embarks on a bizarre relationship with a swimming pool builder named Wayne. That Wayne is played by Danny DeVito should tell you a few things about why the relationship is bizarre, but it goes beyond that. It feels like a detour, like the movie has wandered off-course.

The movie is often very funny up to that point, with barbed dialogue (written by Adam Wierzbianski) delivered by comedy pros Rudd and Posey. But the last half-hour goes in strange directions and undoes whatever goodwill the farcical ribaldry of the first 60 minutes has established. We wind up feeling like Priscilla after sex with her husband: It was really fun at first; we just hoped it would end differently.

C+ (1 hr., 28 min.; R, a lot of harsh profanity, abundant sexual dialogue and references, partial nudity, some strong sexuality.)

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